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Une Rose by Frederic Malle

Une Rose by Frederic Malle: Too Much Rose

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Une Rose by Frederic Malle

I have a confession to make, and I fear that my perfumista card is just about to be revoked, but here it is: I don’t like Frederic Malle’s Une Rose. Cue horrified gasps.

I know, I know. You don’t have to say anything. There’s already a sort of Greek chorus going back and forth in my head every time I wear it, and it goes something like this:

Une Rose is the most photorealistic rose in the world.

Yeah. It is. It is almost hyper-realistically real, especially in that first hour when it explodes onto your skin, all huge and red and dripping with dew. But here’s the thing. Despite the fact there are thousands of different cultivars of rose, about a hundred different species, and over four hundred separate chemical compounds or ‘flavonoids’ that make up a rose scent, my unsubtle mind persists in linking the smell of a damask rose with the bottle of cheap attar of roses my grandmother had on her vanity table for more than three decades. To me, the smell of the Bulgarian damask rose, when not mixed with other notes as in a chypre or oriental, will always be the old-fashioned smell I associate with closed-up front rooms, handkerchiefs scented with rose oil, pressed flowers, and powdery, grandmotherly bosoms.

Une Rose is the best soli-rose in the world. It’s the most ROSE rose ever.  

That’s part of my problem. I find rose soliflores a bit boring. I love rose when it’s part of a massive oriental, like Amouage’s stunning Lyric for Women, in dark, slutty rose chypres, like Serge Luten’s weird and waxy Rose de Nuit, and smothered in dark patchouli, like Malle’s own masterly Portrait of a Lady. I like cheap and cheerful roses that are mixed with vanilla, like Tocade by Rochas, and roses battling it out with oud, like Black Aoud by Montale. I love roses, me. I really do. But Une Rose has taught me that I love rose only when it’s paired with something else. Une Rose is ROSE writ large. It’s rose rose rose. It’s too much rose.

But Luca Turin said that Une Rose is “a remarkable, angular, uncompromising fragrance endowed with the alarming beauty of an angry Carmen.” That sounds amazing!

It does sound amazing. However, look closely at the words he uses – “angular”, “uncompromising”, “alarming” and “angry”. His description is spot on, but whereas he sees these attributes as a plus, I personally do not. I can live with the blowsy, over ripe rose in the first hour. But there is a sharp, citric green edge to this rose that grows ever sharper after the first hour – probably the geranium and citrus notes. These sharp green notes seem to gather force with time, and Une Rose soon approaches the acetone hiss and sting of Chanel No. 19 EDT and the damp, poisonous powder feel of Guerlain’s Chamade or Gucci’s No. 3. It’s a bitterness you can almost taste. So, I see what Dr. Turin means about Une Rose having that angular, angry tone. This rose has thorns and they taste of acetone. But I’d rather not have my roses spank me, thank you very much.

Une Rose is so truffly!

First of all, we have to agree on the type of truffles we are talking about here, because it’s not clear to me whether it’s chocolate truffles we are talking about, or the kind that pigs dig up and cost a bazillion dollars to shave over your risotto. The reviews on Fragrantica and Basenotes show that nobody else is sure either – some people mention chocolate, some the other kind. Luca Turin never says which it is either, but mentions that this accord is earthy and creamy. In any case, I agree – there is a lovely earthiness and creaminess to Une Rose. But here’s my big problem – all this lovely creaminess is detectable only in the sillage of this perfume, meaning that it is the others in your wake that will get to enjoy this aspect, but not you. Putting my nose to my wrist, I could detect no earthiness or creaminess at all. In fact, Une Rose smells rather ugly up close and beautiful from afar. I think that it’s terribly bad form of a perfume to smell gorgeous and creamy to other people, but a tiny bit vile to you, don’t you?

Une Rose smells winey and deep! You love wine! You love deep!

Yeah, I love wine when I’m drinking it at ten O’ clock at night with my husband on our balcony, after the kids have been put to sleep (which rather sounds like we took them to the vet – I’m sorry). But I love it far less in the morning when I’m staring at the curdy dregs in our unwashed glasses. It smells of regret and furry tongues and short tempers. Une Rose has this sour, slightly tannic edge of wine dregs in last night’s glasses. It’s winey alright. Just the wrong kind of winey, that’s all.

Une Rose has amazing longevity and sillage!

Yes, it does. In general, you get what you pay for with Les Editions de Parfums de Frederic Malle. His fragrances have top-notch materials and are fabulously well-made. His Une Fleur de Cassie is the one fragrance that always renews my faith in the ability of niche fragrances to produce original masterpieces. But the fact remains that unless you love Une Rose – and we’ve established that I don’t – then massive longevity and sillage are not the boon they usually are. This is a rose that just don’t quit. Unfortunately for me.

My name is Claire, I'm a 39-year old mother of two, and I am a freelance writer and consultant. I love perfume, any perfume, practically all of 'em. Other interests such as writing, reading, and painting fall tragically behind the perfume. It's a hobby that tends to be all-consuming (of both my time and my money).


  1. I’ve been using this perfume for the last year and I absolutely love it.
    Today I decided to check what other people thought about it (big error) and most of the people didn’t liked it because of that strong rose smell. The exact thing that made me love it so much.
    Now im starting to questions myself if im walking around smelling like an old lady when im still 20 .

  2. Hi Victoria, I’m the person who wrote this but I would be embarrassed to think that my review, or anybody else’s would ever put you off a perfume you love. Wear it with full pleasure, I say! For the record, I think it’s a beautifully made fragrance, with top notch materials. Just because it’s not the rose of my dreams doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be yours. Actually, I owe it to Une Rose to give it another try, because who knows, my taste has probably evolved a lot in the almost 4 years since I wrote this. I think a 20 year old could totally rock Une Rose – why not? Best wishes to you, and keep spraying and wearing that Une Rose with abandon! xxx Claire

  3. It’s really hard for me to decide to get this one. I’m a 28 yo guy who’s trying to find my one rose scent – one that feels like me, and would set me apart from my cliche collection (like oud wood and aventus)

    The first time I went to Frederic Malle, I only tried the famous POAL which felt somehow too much for me (I might need to go back!) – then I jumped onto Tom Ford Cafe Rose but soon after spraying the sample on my wrist, it’s gone. Then of course, noir de noir – didn’t work…
    Last month I went to FM again and got to try Une Rose on my wrist—according to FM’s interview, he said just one spray on your wrist for this one—and the scent stayed on my watch straps for weeks! I read more review, tried Serge Lutens’s Berlin, which I really like, but it doesn’t exude some calm confidence like this one does. I even ordered PWS’s tea rose from some reviewers mentioning its similarity to this, but tea rose gave me a headache from the first spray. Amouage’s Lyric Man is arriving tomorrow – but I just have a feeling that I’ll get Une Rose since I’ve been going around and around not to get it but keep coming back to it anyway…

    I appreciate your different opinion – this is what makes fragrance world fun! please report back how you find it next time. (:

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